The PGA Tour’s playoffs, the FedEx Cup, wrap up next weekend at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta with the Tour Championship. A cool $10 million grand prize is awarded to the winner of the FedEx Cup, and all 30 players in the field mathematically have a shot at winning the Cup, although, realistically, only a handful do.
Heading into last week’s BMW Championship, I thought the PGA Tour Player of the Year award might also be on the line at the Tour Championship, but Rory McIlroy made that question moot. Red-hot Rory won for the second week in a row and third time in four starts with a two-shot victory over a leaderboard full of golf’s biggest names.
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McIlroy is the fourth player to win back-to-back playoff events and the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour. McIlroy, who has a Tour-high four wins this year, has a commanding lead in the FedEx Cup points standings. Well, I should say “had” because the points are reset at the Tour Championship, so all 30 players do have a shot to win the Cup. Anyone in the Top 5 in points can clinch the Cup with a victory: Tiger, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker round out the Top 5.
Mickelson moved into the Top 5 with a second-place finish at the BMW, knocking Louis Oosthuizen out of one of those coveted top spots. Oosthuizen dropped to No. 6 by finishing 16th at Crooked Stick. Lee Westwood, who tied for second with Lefty, jumped from 23rd to No. 8. The two players who moved into the Top 30 at the BMW were Robert Garrigus (31 to 20) and Ryan Moore (35 to 28). Moore started the playoffs 64th, lower than anyone who qualified for the Tour Championship. Scott Piercy grabbed the 30th and final spot. He started the final round at the BMW projected to be 34th in points but shot a 68 on Sunday. The two guys dropping out of the Top 30 were Kyle Stanley (30 to 31) and defending Tour Championship and FedEx Cup winner Bill Haas (28 to 32).
Believe it or not, this is McIlroy’s first Tour Championship. Three players have won this tournament in their first try: Chad Campbell (2003), Bart Bryant (2005) and Haas last year. Three players have reached the Tour Championship every year since the inception of the playoffs: Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan. Joining McIlroy as first-timers at East Lake are Oosthuizen, Westwood, Garrigus, John Huh (the lone rookie in the field), Rickie Fowler and Piercy.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Tour Championship Favorites
McIlroy is the co-favorite with Tiger at 5/1 on Bovada. Obviously, McIlroy will be at a slight disadvantage in not having officially played the course previously. Tiger is in the Tour Championship for the first time since 2009, when he finished runner-up for the fourth time in his career. Tiger won this tournament in 2007 and 1999. As noted, both McIlroy and Tiger will win the FedEx Cup if they take this tournament. McIlroy probably would with a Top-5 finish if no other Top-5 players win. In the same scenario, it would likely take a Top-3 finish for Tiger.
Mickelson is next at 16/1. He won this tournament in 2009 and 2000 and was 10th a year ago. I thought Mickelson’s T4 at the Deutsche Bank Championship was a bit of a fluke, but it appears Mickelson has his game back after the T2 at the BMW. Mickelson can finish as low as fourth and have a mathematical chance of winning if other Top-5 players struggle. A second-place finish would give him a good shot if the three players in the points ahead of him struggle and No. 5 Snedeker doesn’t win.
The Top-5 favorites are rounded out by Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson at 16/1. This is the fourth Tour Championship for Johnson, and he hasn’t finished better than T22. Scott has played six times in this event and won it in 2006. He was T6 last year. Johnson (No. 7 in points) can take the FedEx Cup with a win and McIlroy and Tiger essentially finishing third or worse. Scott (No. 21 in points) needs a victory and major help from the Top 6 in the points standings.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Tour Championship Predictions
Outside of a win at Pebble Beach in February, it’s been a disappointing season for Mickelson. A victory in Atlanta would certainly cure that and help fill his bank account -- not that it needs anything -- after he was a minority partner in buying the San Diego Padres. And Mickelson has shot just two rounds in the 70s in his past three tournaments. All the talk in golf has been about Rory and Tiger. Lefty changes that and wins his third Tour Championship.
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